Monday, June 24, 2013

Kotas Reviews Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Most of you are aware of my drinking habits. I enjoy rum and gin, vodka and tequila are best in mixed drinks, and I stay the heck away from whisk(e)y/bourbon/scotch. However, in the past few months, on a whim, I sampled some of that "old is new again" rye whiskey that's been making a comeback.

And you know what? I LIKED it. It tasted a lot like whiskey I'd had in the past, but something smoothed out all the rough flavors that I could not stand and made it not only drinkable, but GOOD. And without having to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a "good" bottle to make it drinkable.

This is my review of Bulleit Rye Whiskey. It's pretty subjective, but hey aren't all my reviews? SHUT UP I AM OBJECTIVE. Anyway, onto the review.

I've always liked Bulleit Whiskey's bottles. They have the name of the company as a part of the bottle and I always liked the "old timey" feel that gave them. Their Rye is in the same bottle, but with a green label rather than their usual dusky orange. The label claims it is a "95% rye", which I assume means that the majority of the grain used to distill it is rye (their standard bourbon uses rye as well, at least according to the website:

Pop the cork and pour it out, it's a lovely dark amber color, so it's pretty in the glass. The smell is very...spicy, with a strong woody odor mixed in with hints of molasses and cinnamon. I tried it neat, because a) I didn't have any ice and b) NO FREAKIN' ICE.

The taste is also sharp, with a heavy peppery note, along with an oaky, not quite smokey top flavor that has a very out of place but interesting vanilla suggestion. Some might call the flavor "leathery", but I do not think that I would. The burn starts off strong and tapers off very quickly.

On a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces, I give it 3 smiley faces. Finding a whiskey that I not only like, but really, really like is a treat, though I find it hilarious that the one I like is now super trendy. I suggest giving Rye a whirl, even if whiskey isn't your thing.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kotas Reviews the Year of the Dragon Quadrology

Ages ago, someone posted on G+ about a free fantasy book, called The Shadow of Black Wings ( You can get it free on Amazon and the Kobo book store. I downloaded it and forgot about it. When my daughter was born, I had some down time waiting in the hospital for various things and no Internet connection. I had, however, downloaded the book to my tablet. So I started reading it. I enjoyed it enough to purchase the quadralogy of the series, Year of the Dragon ( This is my review. Don’t worry, I will try not to spoil it for you. Not that it matters.

Have you ever read a story and thought “Man, this would be awesome when paired with this other story?” That is exactly how this book seems to have been written, only to the extreme. It is almost a kitchen sink of fantasy. Dragons? Yes. Magical School? Yes. Chosen One? Sure, why not? Steampunk? Of Course! Japanese Culture? Look how DIFFERENT I AM! If I could best describe it, it as if Kevin Siembiea of Palladium Books took a bunch of popular fantasy literature bits (Harry Potter, Eragon, Codex Alera, How to Train your Dragon, Avatar the Last Airbender, etc.), crammed them all together, and wrote a Rifts style splatbook for Legend of the Five Rings. THEN someone wrote a fanfic about it. And set it in an “alternate history” of Earth. With major colonial powers named “Dracaland” and Blatantly Transparent Substitute Names for Real World Countries. I am totally not kidding.

The story starts with our hero Bran having just been thrown off a building, having witnessed the King’s wife in an incestuous...wait, I got my popular fiction mixed up. First there is a prologue that doesn’t make any damn sense until you read the second book. Then the story actually starts with our hero Bran is having trouble at Dragon Rider school because he is being bullied for having a) common blood and b) a wimpy dragon. Or something. His dad is Best Dragonrider and Bran really wants to live up to that, but he has to go about it his own way, and not the way his dad tells him, because he is just that kind of rebel...who doesn't otherwise misbehave. After graduating from the Dracaland Rider Academy (or whatever) and not hooking up with the Hot Semi-Exotic Girl that is completely One Dimensional and has nothing to do with the story ever again, he has a fight with someone you think isn’t important but shows up 3 books into the damn series for reasons that remain unexplained. Then we switch to his dad being worried about his son not being cool enough. Then Bran kills a Dracolich with his Soul Lance magical Dragon Rider powers in a scene that may mean something but is only mentioned like one more time ever. It is seriously called a SOUL LANCE. Seriously.

Superdad invites Bran to go on the Steampunk Titanic What Is Also A Warship to go to China, er, Qin so they can protect the Dracaland (sigh) interests in selling Fantastical Opium.

We switch viewpoint to some Japanese, er Yamato people for some more background that will be relevant later but currently seem out of place and arbitrary. Sato is a Yamato girl dressing as a boy to inherit her father’s Western Style Wizardry Dojo, where they combine magic and katanas to be extra awesome, but have fallen out of favor with the Daimyo or something. Her best friend Nagomi is the innocent shrine maiden apprentice particularly skilled at healing and with red hair that makes her a bit of an outcast in Yamato. I am sure that her hair won't be mentioned every other fucking page. There are other characters mentioned at this point that may or may not be relevant in the future.

For reasons I won’t go into, all of these characters get thrown together and have to fight off an evil vampiric demon, originally raised by Roman-esque priests during a long time ago War of Dark Darkness, who uses all powerful Blood Magic Necromancy (the very WORST KIND) to try and.conquer Yamato. Along the way, they learn about each other, and stuff happens for incredibly convenient reasons to advance the plot. Also his dad does some stuff.

If this all sounds completely insane, that’s because it IS completely insane. It is a kitchen sink of Fantasy Tropes, coupled with point of view whiplash between chapters and the seeming inability of the author to actually write a story in book format. Seriously, each book just sort of stops, and the story continues right where you left off in the next book. Most books have a beginning, middle, and end. These books do not, and each chapter is more like an episode in a serial or a comic book. Plot threads appear and disappear, and occasionally get wrapped up, and lots of incredibly convenient things happen to move the story along. The thing is...I like this. What it lacks in polish or sense, it makes up for in sheer earnestness and cheesy charm. Classic fantasy it ain’t, but if you enjoyed the movie Krull, I think you’d enjoy this book, even if it is totally ridiculous in premise and execution. This is in every sense a guilty pleasure of popcorn fantasy.

Overall, on a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces I give this one smiley face. I enjoy cheesy movies and this book is as cheesy as it comes, coupled with a crazy awesome setting with something for everyone, even if it’s just “drinking game fodder”.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kotas Reviews Summer Seasonal Doughnuts

Last Friday, in honor of National Doughnut Day I went to Dunkin Doughnuts and bought a dozen to share with Charlotte and my in-laws. They did not have my favorite doughnut from Dunkin (Chocolate Glazed), but they did have a couple of "Flavors of the Month": Key Lime Pie and Lemonade, two similar takes on the concept of the filled doughnut. I sampled both. Here is my review.

The Key Lime Doughnut is their standard filled doughnut base, with a lightly lime flavored thick glaze, sprinkled with graham cracker bits, and filled with what I assume is supposed to be key lime filling. The lime glaze is actually quite tasty, with the graham cracker bits taking just a bit of the edge off the sweetness. The rest of the doughnut is okay, and the filling tastes a lot like artificial key lime flavoring. I give it one smiley face. I'd eat it again, but it will not become a regularly indulged in item.

The Lemonade Doughnut is similar in appearance, but falls down in execution. It is their standard lemon-filled doughnut, with a thick vanilla glaze (if it was supposed to be lemon flavored, it failed) topped with what can only be described as "crunchy lemon-flavored bits". The "bits" were chalky and tasted only vaguely of lemon, while the vanilla and lemon flavors clashed when taken as a whole. The filling was their standard lemon filling and due to the extreme sweetness of the glaze ends up being very bland. I give it one frowny face because it is really hard to fuck up a doughnut,, and while it isn't god awful, it took a perfectly fine doughnut type and made it meh.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kotas Reviews A Philips LED Light Bulb

Today I'm reviewing a product I purchased recently: A Philips brand LED lightbulb. LED lightbulbs are the new hotness in "trying to not have your bulb burn out very often and hopefully save you some cash that way." I have a lamp that accepts a 60 watt bulb that we use as a bedroom table lamp. It recently burned out. I would have slapped one of my "60w Equivalent" CFL bulbs in it except that it has one of those shades where you just cram it on top of the bulb. Those don't work with CFLs.

So the quest was on for an LED bulb that looked a lot like a regular bulb. I saw an ad for Cree brand LED bulbs that looked a LOT like regular bulbs, just taller, for around $13. Then I saw this bulb. It's a lot shorter (the size of a regular bulb in fact), and $11. What the hell, I thought, so I bought it to try out.

This thing actually works. It doesn't give off quite as much light as a regular bulb, because about half of the traditional illumination source is opaque, but the light it gives out is more than enough to illuminate a bedside or a small room from my little lamp. I always hated changing out that bulb anyway. Now, in theory, this bulb will burn out when Sylvia starts college. If it makes it that far, it was $11 well spent. The big advantage of this bulb over other LED bulbs is that it is the same size and shape as a standard bulb, while most other LED bulbs are totally not.

On a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces, I give it 2 smiley faces. It is an experiment, but so far that experiment is working, and at this price, it's cheap enough that I don't feel like I've wasted the money. Hell, I'll start using these bulbs for all my future 60 watt needs if this one works out decent.